Event organizers have been feverishly working for nearly an entire year to secure a lineup worthy enough to follow the 2011’s Hangout Music Festival.
Time and again, HMF pumped up a release to eager festival goers in the early months of this year, only to delay it repeatedly and keep music lovers in a mad frenzy, tormented by anticipation of whom, or what could top the three-day Gulf Coast soiree from a year ago.
In early April, this year’s lineup was finally declassified and released for public consumption with cheers and jeers alike. While they were able to secure some big names again, many acts that helped propel the ’11 festival into mythological context will be absent from the south’s largest end-of-school party this year in south Alabama.
THE MISSING …
My Morning Jacket: With “Circuital” just days away from its release, MMJ played the dusk down show on the first evening, sprinkling in what have now become staples in their live shows, along with their classics. “Holding on to Black Metal” sounded different than anything Jim James had constructed before, but its sweeping vocals and throbbing bass line made it an instant hit with the Gulf Shores crowd.
Widespread Panic: You can’t fault the Hangout Music Festival on this one, as the jam band icons from Athens are currently on hiatus from a touring run that lasted nearly 25 years, give or take a few breaks in between. WSP followed MMJ on opening night and gave the thousands of barefoot sand dwellers their fix. Warren Haynes (who won’t be around either this year) joined WSP for a foot stomping rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” that lit the fire for a spectacle of an evening.
Drive-by-Truckers: I can’t say I was happy when I arrived last year to find that the Truckers were playing an early morning show in the Boom Boom Room – an enclosed tent tucked away from the main byways of the festival. As a DBT fan, I know they are best or at least perceived best, in a certain environment – sweaty, smoky bars that serve rotgut whiskey until the sun comes up. This was a far cry from that, but Cooley and Hood still gave me swimmer’s ear with “Hell No I Ain’t Happy.” I think my ears are still ringing.
The Avett Brothers: It’s quite a shame the festival goers won’t see these folky rockers this weekend. I’ll admit they weren’t the reason I bought the ticket and took the ride last year, but it was certainly one of those pleasant surprises that you don’t forget. The first time I heard anything about them was a review I read in the San Francisco Chronicle that described the Avett’s sound as having the “heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt and the light pop concision of Buddy Holly.” That’s spot on the vibe they poured out to the Hangout crowd. Their cover of the John Prine classic, “Spanish Pipedream”, was legendary.
Others: Paul Simon, The Warren Haynes Band, Pretty Lights, Old Crow Medicine Show, Primus and Justin Townes Earle.
Despite the pity party I have seemingly just thrown, longing for the nostalgia of a year ago, there are obviously a few great performances scheduled this weekend.
THE MUST-SEES …
The Flaming Lips: They’ll be performing Dark Side of the Moon, and one should need no explanation on this one. It’s a no brainer. Wayne Coyne and company have always been head over heels with the experimental side of Pink Floyd, and their fresh take on one of the hymnbooks of rock royalty should be a delightful Sunday evening sermon on the beach. The Flaming Lips take the Chevrolet Stage at 6:30 p.m. – the last act before The Dave Matthews Band closes out the festival.
Alabama Shakes: This Athens rock band is a perfect way to get the weekend started, as they take the Chevrolet Stage at 2:15 p.m. Friday afternoon for some soul searching. The Shakes cut their teeth on the road in 2009 performing banging covers of artists such as Led Zeppelin, James Brown and Otis Reading. Fast forward three years and they have new arsenal of soulful tunes off their critically acclaimed 2012 release, Boys and Girls.
Jack White: Is it just me, or do sunny beaches fragranced with coconut oil not seem like a venue for Detroit rock god Jack White? Having said that, I’m sure the other half of and brain child of The White Stripes is bound to burn down the house when he closes out the festival Friday night on the Main Stage. White kicked off his solo tour in Nashville last week and was backed by his five-piece male band, Loz Buzzardos. White started the show with the White Stripes’ classic “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground.”
Others to catch this weekend: Red Hot Chili Peppers, G. Love and Special Sauce, Michael Franti & Spearhead, The String Cheese Incident, Dispatch, Randy Newman, Dave Matthews Band, Steve Winwood, Cage the Elephant and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.
Live streams of many of the performances will be available on The Hangout Music Festival Myspace page. Not every artist’s performances will be streamed due to royalty issues, but here are a few you can hear: Jack White, String Cheese Incident, Dispatch, Umphrey’s McGee, G. Love & Special Sauce, Paul Oakenfold, Gogol Bordello, Dr. Dog, Flogging Molly, Yelawolf, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Alabama Shakes.